Mike White

Florida men's basketball coach Mike White and the Gators play Vanderbilt at 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the O'Connell Center. The Commodores are looking to pick up their first SEC win of the season.

 

Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White will continue saying it until he is blue in the face: Vanderbilt is a lot better than its 0-10 SEC record shows.

That’s true, to an extent.

The Commodores are currently averaging 73.6 points per game, which is No. 11 in the conference. They are near the bottom in field goals made, but are close to the top in three pointers and free throws made.

“They have a lot of talent...,” White said. “Our guys will find that out in the first few minutes of the game, if they’re not already convinced.”

The Gators will find out if White is right when they play Vanderbilt on Wednesday at 9 p.m. at the O’Connell Center.

The Commodores are a team White hasn't taken lightly in his time at UF. They have won all but one game against the Gators over the past four seasons.

“Vandy has gotten the better of the Gators the last few years,” he said. “They’ve got some very talented players. (Simisola) Shittu is one of the most talented guys in our league. (Aaron) Nesmith is one of the most talented freshman in our league. Saben Lee we couldn’t guard last year, and he’s gotten better, and he’s gotten more experienced.”

Those players could be a problem for Florida.

Shittu is one of the SEC’s top rebounders, tied for eighth in the league at seven boards per game. He creates a strong inside presence as a 6-foot-10 forward/center, averaging 12 points per game and scoring all but one of his baskets from inside the perimeter.

Nesmith pulled valuable minutes off the bench before cracking the starting lineup. He has reached double-digit scoring (10.3) this season, has a 42.3 field-goal percentage and is second in rebounds (127) for Vanderbilt.

Lee continues to be a tough player to cover. He leads the team in scoring since guard Darius Garland’s meniscus injury five games into the season. Lee is shooting 47.7 percent from the field this season, including 36.4 percent from beyond the arc.

“They’re very well coached. They play hard,” guard Jalen Hudson said. “They execute, so regardless of their record, it’s the SEC so it’s gonna be a tough game.”

To an extent, White is right. Vanderbilt has all the talent on paper to be better than an 0-10 SEC team.

But it isn’t, and it is still looking to pick up that first conference win. As history has shown, it could very well be against the Gators.

White knows that is something going through Vanderbilt’s players’ minds, so he knows his team has to be ready to play come Wednesday night.

“I’m sure they’re sitting there thinking, ‘We’ve got a chance to win a bunch of the remaining games on our schedule as well,’” he said. “We’ve got to play well. We’ve got to get better.”

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected]

Jake Dreilinger is the assistant sports editor of the Alligator and covers the Florida Gators football team. He has previously covered men's basketball, baseball and softball. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2015.